A quality start on the road that also featured a timely comeback was spoiled late in the third period as the Kootenay Ice dropped a 5-3 decision to the Prince Albert Raiders Tuesday night.
Trailing 3-2 late in regulation, Ice centre Luke Philp forced a turnover deep in Raiders territory before setting up a wide-open Zak Zborosky. Cruising through the slot, the Regina native made no mistake, sizzling a shot past Raiders goaltender Ian Scott to knot the game 3-3 with 2:50 to play.
While Zborosky’s goal was timely, an equally untimely roughing minor from defenceman Cale Fleury sent the Raiders to the man advantage shortly after. The sophomore blue-liner sat in the sin bin as Raiders overage centre Jordan Tkatch tucked home the eventual game-winning goal with a mere 42.5 seconds remaining in regulation.
“This one hurts, but it’s good for our guys to go through,” said Luke Pierce, head coach of the Kootenay Ice, over the phone following Tuesday’s loss. “There was a lot more anger and frustration tonight than what we’ve seen in some of the other losses because you knew how hard you worked. That’s what we have to learn — how hard it is we have to play.”
Tkatch added his second of the night shortly thereafter, hitting the empty net with eight seconds left on the clock to send the Raiders (4-1-0-0) to their fourth consecutive victory.
The Ice (1-4-0-0) built a 2-0 lead early in the first period, courtesy goals from defenceman Bryan Allbee and left wing Austin Wellsby.
Standing 6-foot-3 and tipping the scales at 184 pounds, Wellsby — a native of Chilliwack, B.C. — was seen around the puck all night long, including setting up linemate River Beattie for a solid scoring chance in the third period.
“From day one of camp, not knowing Austin last year, I think he’s been our most improved player,” Pierce said. “He’s got a very positive attitude, he’s keen to learn. He’s very receptive to wanting to get better. Game by game, I think he’s getting better and he was rewarded tonight with a good goal with what we’ve been talking about for three weeks — just shooting the puck and not complicating the game.”
With burly Jon Martin being sent to the Swift Current Broncos Sunday night, there was a void left behind — a sizeable one — that Wellsby, 18, could look to inherit.
On the topic of holes, the Ice played the majority of Tuesday short two forwards.
Right wing Jaedon Descheneau exited the game early on after sustaining an injury in an incidental collision and did not return. According to Pierce, Descheneau is set to be reevaluated in Saskatoon, but isn’t expected to be available when the Ice face the Blades Wednesday night.
Right wing Max Patterson was also lost to the team midway through the first period after receiving a five-minute major for charging and a game misconduct, which he hammered home with an additional five-minute major after getting into his first-career WHL scrap.
Cruising through the offensive zone, Patterson finished his check on Raiders centre Matteo Gennaro, who stayed down. After missing a couple shifts, Gennaro was back on the ice in the first period.
“I wasn’t surprised they were going to call a penalty and anytime a player looks injured, they’re going to call it a major,” Pierce said of the hit. “It didn’t surprise me. It’s one of those hits.
“The game is so fast now and these guys are big. Max caught a guy in a vulnerable spot. I don’t think he had the intention of hurting anybody, he’s just finishing his route.”
Prior to the Patterson hit, the Raiders struck midway through the first period to get back within one as left wing Luke Coleman got the hosts on the board.
On the heels of being named WHL player of the week, Raiders right wing Reid Gardiner remained hot as he added a goal and an assist Tuesday night.
Gardiner scored 5:20 into the second period to tie the game 2-2, preceding a wild deflection tally from defenceman Jesse Lees that gave the Raiders their first lead of the night.
Between the pipes for the Raiders, Scott stopped 27 shots to claim his second win of the season.
At the other end, 20-year-old Wyatt Hoflin returned to action and turned aside 32 shots.
There’s no time to rest for the Ice as they return to action Wednesday night, taking on the Blades (1-0-3-0) at the SaskTel Centre in Saskatoon.
“They’re another real hard-working team and they’ve been doing it for a while now,” Pierce said of the Blades. “They’re much improved from last year. They’ve been in some real tight games.”
Notes: The Ice scratched G Declan Hobbs, D Dallas Hines, D Tanner Lishchynsky (knee, day to day), D Tyler King (knee, indefinite) and C Noah Philp… Ice D Jason Wenzel returned to action after serving a two-game team suspension for violating team rules at Mount Baker Secondary School…
Video highlights: Kootenay Ice 3 at Prince Albert Raiders 5 (Tuesday, Oct. 6)